The Union’s 2-2 draw with with Orlando City on Sunday offered many talking points to consider.
Here are a few of the big ones, starting with a marquee player who hasn’t played like it lately.
In the 70th minute of Sunday’s game, just after Orlando had taken the lead, Sergio Santos had the ball at his feet and a pretty good look at goal. He shot wide, and not well.
It was the latest in a string of disappointing moments for the Brazilian. The player who was supposed to be this year’s top striker hasn’t been. He hasn’t scored in six games, and has come off the bench in the last three. Just as worrisome, he has recorded more than two shots in only one game this year.
Is the problem in Santos’ feet or in his head? Signs point to the latter. Union manager Jim Curtin was asked for his view, and gave an unusually terse answer.
“Mentally, where he’s at, you’d have to ask him,” Curtin said, barely hiding his frustration. “When we put him on the field, you have to take the most of your chances. … He’s working to get back into the swing of things and there’s high competition right now.”
That competition will include Andrew Wooten starting this weekend, as the newly signed American striker is in line for his Union debut. If Wooten fulfills his potential, he’ll be at the top of the depth chart right away.
Santos has the raw talent to get there, and as with all strikers, just one goal can unlock a good run. For now, the missing piece seems to be one that only he can find.
While Santos has been struggling, Fafa Picault has been on a hot streak. He has two goals and an assist in the last three games and has created three chances. On Sunday, he completed a season-high 96.7 percent of his passes, 29 out of 30 attempts.
Picault has made no secret of a fire being lit within him in recent weeks. Nor has he been shy about the work required to change his playing style from winger to central forward. His candor, energy, and on-field savvy continue to make him a key part of the Union.
We’re used to seeing Marco Fabián score goals all over the world. But even by his own admission, he rarely does so with his head. That made his terrific curling header for Sunday’s opening goal even more entertaining.
“I’m not a really tall guy, but I always try, and I have a good jump," he said with a laugh. "Sometimes they don’t know, but I can jump and I can score goals.”
In what was his first start since May 12, Fabián registered 62 touches, 3 shots, 2 tackles and 1 interception, and completed 37 of 41 pass attempts.
This seems strange to say about a game in which the Union took 27 shots, with Haris Medunjanin accounting for a team-high five. But it needs saying anyway: There could have and should have been more. Medunjanin and Brenden Aaronson each had a few spells where they had good looks from 18-25 yards and chose to dribble or pass instead.
But let’s take a moment to note Medunjanin’s good overall performance: 2 chances created, 1 tackle and team highs of 92 touches and 66 completed passes.